Coast Guard assists in East River dielectric fluid spill response

NEW YORK – The U.S. Coast Guard is evaluating the safety zone that was created in the East River Monday as a response to a spill of dielectric fluid from a ConEdison power station.

The Coast Guard, ConEdison, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), continue to work together responding to the spill, which occurred Sunday when a transformer failed on the ConEdison Farragut Substation in Brooklyn.

At the time of the failure, approximately 31,000 gallons of dielectric fluid was released from a 37,000 gallon capacity transformer into a containment area on the ConEdison substation. An unknown amount of the fluid subsequently spilled into the East River. A total of 6,300 gallons have been recovered from the containment area and 520 gallons have been recovered from the water. The Coast Guard estimates approximately 10 times of what has been recovered from the water may have seeped into the waterway, impacting areas along the East River and the Buttermilk Channel.

The safety zone was implemented as a precaution to protect waterway users from potential health hazards directly related to the spill, and to aid in the response of the spill. The safety zone includes all waters on the Brooklyn side of the East River south from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge. Recreational and human powered vessels may not enter, remain in, or transit through the safety zone during the enforcement period unless authorized by the Coast Guard Captain of the Port or designated Coast Guard personnel. Mariners are requested to exercise caution while near the area.

Response to the spill is on-going with boom and skimming vessels employed to prevent the spread of the pollution and collect recoverable amounts of the dielectric fluid.

The Coast Guard is currently conducting overflights with the assistance of the NYPD. Shoreline assessments are also being made to determine the effectiveness of response efforts by ConEdison and judge the continued necessity of the safety zone. If the safety zone is deemed to still be necessary, its exact dimensions and geographical limits will also be assessed.

Should the evaluation result in significant change or disestablishment of the safety zone, the Coast Guard will make proper notifications to all concerned parties.

The Coast Guard plans to conduct over flights of the area Friday morning and Monday morning.

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